Petrus "The General" Ndaba greets his supporters at the Pretoria North Magistrate’s Court during his bail application. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/ANA Pictures

Pretoria - The man in the picture is Petrus Ndaba, 55, the alleged conman who lured 259 prospective young job seekers from all over the country to Pretoria, saying they would be trained and then employed in the SANDF.

Clad in a shiny blue suit, a weary-eyed Ndaba walked up to the dock from the cells in the Pretoria North Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday. But once he get to the dock, his bravado and confidence were back, reassured by the presence of his supporters in the courtroom.

He waved and winked to the packed court filled up mostly with his supporters, who were dressed in traditional regalia.

During court proceedings he appeared undeterred as he stared at the magistrate. The magistrate, in some instances, had to quieten down the gallery when Ndaba’s defence counsel read his affidavit.

Before the court went into recess, Ndaba raised a clenched fist and mumbled a couple of words to his supporters.

During the bail application, it emerged that Ndaba, referred to as “The General”, was in fact a former military private who served prison time for murder.

He joined the then South African Defence Force (SADF) in 1991. He was stationed at 115 South African Infantry Battalion in Pretoria.

In 1992, he underwent basic military training and was appointed to the SADF as a private.

Ndaba was arrested and charged with murder in 1993. He was tried in a civilian court and found guilty. He was subsequently sentenced to a jail term of 10 years in 1995 and served six-and-a-half-years. At the time of his incarceration he was still a private.

The recruits with their belongings in Karen Park. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/ANA Pictures

“The SANDF unequivocally wishes to state that the suspect was never at any stage during his short military career appointed in a rank of either an officer, or a general officer,” said the SANDF.

The court proceedings resembled a tug-of-war between the State and defence when the affidavits were read. Arguments for and against Ndaba lasted hours before the case was adjourned.

State prosecutor Ronnie Sibanda maintained that Ndaba faced serious charges and was a flight risk, while his defence portrayed him as a victim who was also not well.

Sibanda had argued that an affidavit submitted by Ndaba showed a sense of exceptionalism and lack of appreciation of the seriousness of the charges against him, which include kidnapping, assault, fraud and crimen injuria.

“Ndaba has the means and friends in neighbouring countries like Namibia, and this makes him a flight risk,” said Sibanda.

Other reasons to keep Ndaba in custody included the high public and media interest that the case has received, and for his safety. Possible intimidation of witnesses was also a reason to keep Ndaba in custody, Sibanda said. “His release might also allow him to interfere with the investigations.”

His defence team, lead by advocate Jurg Prinsloo, argued that Ndaba was sickly and needed proper health care which could not be found in custody.

Prinsloo said his client suffered from severe diabetes. In addition, Ndaba’s defence argued that he was not a flight risk because he didn’t have a passport and all his assets were in the country, including a property in Chantelle, north of Pretoria, a Mercedes-Benz 350 D sedan, a Mercedes-Benz AMG sedan and a Lexus sedan.

Last Tuesday, a group of people aged between 18 and 30 were discovered on the streets of Karen Park, north of Pretoria with bags, blankets and other belongings after they had been kicked out of a house over unpaid rent.

The Akasia police arrested Ndaba, leader of Amabutho Royal Defence, after the Department of Social Development swooped on the area. The department provided food and water for the recruits, who had slept outside in the cold for three days.

The victims had reportedly paid between R300 and R800 for their registration R1 800 for training, as well as R200 a month since their arrival in the city last year.

Ndaba allegedly recruited them and brought them to the area, and then demanded payment for lodging. He also allegedly promised them a salary of R13 000 a month and that they would be given an opportunity to study further.

The men and women shared a three-bedroomed house with one bathroom, used two Wendy houses, with both males and female sleeping in one space.

Some slept in the kitchen, passages, dining room and lounge, it emerged in court.

They also had field exercises and a full-scale rehearsal of military manoeuvres as practice for warfare. They were subsequently taken to the Salvation Army.

The Department of Social Development’s Mbangwa Xaba, meanwhile, said all the persons had gone back to their homes.

Transport was provided by the department. “All the people from Polokwane, Joburg and Western Cape left last Thursday.

“The majority, from KwaZulu-Natal, were transported home by train,” he added.

Pretoria News